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Glossary of Terms

This glossary features an alphabetical listing of defined terms used in the Energy Data Management Guide.

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50001 Ready Program
U.S. Department of Energy program that recognizes facilities and organizations that have implemented an ISO 50001-based energy management system. The program does not require any third-party audits or certifications and is a self-paced, no-cost way for organizations to build a culture of structured, continual improvement based energy management that leads to deeper and more sustained cost savings.


A unit of utility service for a specific service type—electricity, natural gas, water—identified through a unique service address and an alphanumeric code or number.
Account Number
The main identifier, using numbers or letters, of account ownership.
Account Scrubbing
Reduces the number of accounts by removing inactive and duplicate accounts, making tracking more manageable and less costly.
Accounts Payable
Department that collects and maintains internal utility billing data; uses accounting codes to attribute utility expenditures to specific cost centers.
Asset Database or Inventory
A list of all individual energy- and water-using assets an entity owns or operates that contribute to the organization's commodity expenditures.
Automated Data Transfer
Supported by software that automatically retrieves data from the utility's records and imports it into a customer's tracking database, bypassing the need for manual data entry.
Automated System Optimization (ASO) Tools
Tools that dynamically modify building automation system control settings to optimize efficiency, energy use, and/or energy costs while maintaining occupant comfort.


Benchmarking and Monthly Utility Bill Analysis Tools
Tools that are primarily used for building energy performance tracking (peer-to-peer or historical) and for validation and management of utility bills.
Better Buildings® Challenge
An initiative led by the U.S. Department of Energy challenging chief executive officers, university presidents, state and local government leaders, manufacturers, multifamily housing, and building owners to commit their organizations to 20% energy savings in 10 years and to lead the market by sharing their solutions and results.
Better Buildings Energy Data Accelerator
Established as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Initiative, the Energy Data Accelerator was a 2-year partnership with cities and utilities to improve energy efficiency by making whole-building energy data more accessible to building owners for the purposes of benchmarking their buildings.
Billing Errors
Incorrect charges on a utility customer's account. Errors can include omitting payments or credits, adding charges that do not apply, billing inactive or closed accounts, and others.
British Thermal Unit (Btu)
Standard measure of heat energy. It takes one Btu to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit at sea level.
Building/Asset Characteristics
Specific features of buildings or assets that are essential for the calculation of energy consumption trends and improving the performance of underperforming assets. These characteristics include, but are not limited to, weekly operating hours, plug load, percentage of floor area that is heated, number of buildings, wattage, and type of lamp (e.g., streetlights).
Building Automation Systems (BAS)
Systems that are designed to control building operations and indoor climate. BAS are primarily used to control building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, but may also control lighting and security systems in order to maintain indoor air temperature, humidity, ventilation, and lighting conditions.
Building Energy Benchmarking
Comparing the energy performance of a building or group of buildings over time (i.e., longitudinal benchmarking), relative to other similar buildings (i.e., cross-sectional benchmarking), or to modeled simulations of a reference building built to a specific standard (e.g., building energy codes). The results can be used to compare energy performance among buildings, identify buildings with the greatest potential for improvement, track energy performance, quantify and/or verifying energy savings, and identify best practices that can be replicated.
Building Energy Data Exchange Specifications (BEDES)
A dictionary designed by the U.S. Department of Energy to support analysis of the energy performance of buildings. It establishes terms, definitions, and field formats for over 650 commonly collected pieces of information about buildings, their energy performance, physical and operational characteristics, and energy conservation measures. BEDES can be used for consistency in data exchange between tools and databases in the building energy efficiency sector.
Building Portfolio
A collection of buildings or facilities owned by a single organization or individual.


Consolidated Bill
Combines billing data from multiple accounts into one data file. Utilities can group data from multiple bills into one consolidated bill, making it easier for a customer to collect and manipulate the data.
Cost Avoidance
Potential savings resulting from energy management measures. Avoided costs are different from cost savings. Cost savings result from reducing spending that is already taking place, while avoided costs demonstrate that future increases in cost will result if the proposed action is not implemented. For example, preventative maintenance on equipment can be thought of as the practice of cost avoidance.
Cost Center
The agency, department, or fund with budgetary responsibility for the management of an asset.


Data grouped together in an organized structure that allows for the data to be defined, added, edited, and queried electronically. The data are typically organized using specs and schema that support software tools.
The rate of energy use. Many utilities base a portion of their billing on the peak demand measured during each billing period. Peak demand values are sometimes referred to as simply demand. Electricity demand is normally expressed in kW (kWh/h), Btu/hr., kBtu/hr., therms/day, or ccf/day.
Demand Factor
The ratio of the maximum demand to the total connected load on any defined system over a specified time period.


Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
An electronic communication method that provides standards for exchanging data electronically. Organizations use EDI to electronically exchange energy data and documents such as purchase orders, invoices, shipping notices, and others.
Energy Data Analyst
Conducts energy analysis to support data-driven energy planning and management. The Energy Data Analyst manages internal data resources and provides data collection, analysis, and visualization support. The Energy Data Analyst may also incorporate development of online tools to effectively deliver information and resources to a variety of audiences.
Energy Cost
The total cost of energy, including base charges, demand charges, customer charges, and power factor charges.
Energy Data Management Functions
Software available for management of energy data varies in functionalities offered, such as asset tracking, customization of data fields, virtual meters for nonmetered assets, and automatic flagging of billing anomalies with custom audits and alerts.
Energy Database or Asset Inventory
A list of all individual energy- and water-using assets that an entity owns or operates that contribute to commodity expenditures. An energy database allows your organization to verify that utility charges are correct, and that you are only being billed for the assets owned or occupied by your organization and not for inactive or closed utility accounts.
Energy Engineer
Provides technical support to facility personnel to optimize the operations and energy use of energy systems and equipment across the organization. The energy engineer uses technical knowledge to develop and recommend equipment strategies to maximize operating efficiency to achieve energy and cost savings. The energy engineer works with facility managers to implement effective and innovative energy conservation measures and demand-side management strategies in buildings and facilities. The energy engineer also conducts energy assessments and site investigations, monitors construction activities related to systems and equipment, interprets engineering documents, and drafts technical reports.
Energy Information Systems (EIS) and Advanced EIS
Web-based software, data acquisition hardware, and communication systems used to store, analyze, and display building energy performance data. More advanced EIS offerings provide a higher degree of automated analytics, in combination with baseline models that are used to normalize for key energy drivers such as weather and time of week.
Energy Management and Information Systems (EMIS)
A broad family of tools and services to manage commercial building energy use. For example, these technologies include energy information systems, equipment-specific fault detection and diagnostic systems, benchmarking and utility tracking tools, automated system optimization tools, and building automation systems.
Energy Manager
Responsible for the organization's energy management program, activities, and staff. The energy manager sets and/or advises on energy goals; supervises energy efficiency projects and energy-related operations and maintenance activities; oversees energy performance tracking, analysis, and reporting; manages and forecasts energy budgets; and leads a team of energy professionals.
Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC)
An ESPC is a partnership between a building owner and an energy service company (ESCO), which allows a building owner to complete energy savings projects with no upfront capital costs. The ESCO guarantees that improvements will generate energy cost savings to pay for the project over the term of the contract. Any additional cost savings accrue to the owner at the end of the contract.
ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager
A free interactive resource management tool from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that enables users to track and assess energy and water use across a portfolio of buildings and wastewater treatment plants in a secure online environment. The tool is used to set baselines, target buildings for improvement, and track progress towards goals.
Energy Use Intensity (EUI)
A unit of measurement that describes a building's energy use as a function of its size or other characteristics. The common metric is kBTU/square foot.
Energy Using Asset
Any system or building that uses energy to operate and contributes to the organization's commodity expenditures.
Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification (EM&V)
The collection of methods and processes used to assess the performance of energy efficiency activities so planned results can be achieved with greater certainty and future activities can be more effective.


Fault Detection and Diagnostic (FDD) Tools
Tools that automatically identify HVAC system- or equipment-level performance issues, and in some cases, isolate the root causes of the problem.


Gigawatt (GW)
One thousand megawatts, one million kilowatts, or one billion watts.
Green Button
A national, industry-led initiative that connects utility customers to energy data using a standard data format. Green Button encourages utilities and service providers to standardize the format of energy data so that customers and third-party service providers can easily access energy usage information from utility suppliers.
Green Button Connect My Data
Authorizes a third-party service provider to receive direct access to a customer's Green Button Data.
Green Button Download My Data
A web-based functionality that allows download of Green Button Data as an XML-formatted file.
Gross Floor Area
Total floor area of a building in square feet that includes the external dimensions of the enclosing walls of the building and all structures, partitions, corridors, stairs, and below-grade spaces; excludes parking areas.


Investor-Owned Utility (IOU)
A privately owned electric utility whose stock is publicly traded. It is rate-regulated and authorized to achieve an allowable rate of return.


Kilowatt-hour (kWh)
Kilowatts (1,000 watts) of energy use in 1 hour of operation.


Load Factor
The ratio of electricity usage to the maximum usage if the power had been left on during a period of peak demand.


Master Meter
A system in which multi-unit buildings are connected to a single meter. The master meter holder receives a single bill from the utility and collects from individual tenants.
Measurement and Verification (M&V)
A term used in analysis of energy efficiency. M&V refers to data collection, monitoring, and analysis of gross energy and demand savings from individual sites or projects.
Meter Number
A meter identification number that identifies the corresponding asset.
Meter Readers
A person that does monthly or quarterly rounds in a utility territory and locates and records meter identification numbers and usage.
Collection of facility energy data over time using meters.
Often tied to program goals, metrics are concrete measures of a program's progress. In energy management, these can include energy metrics (e.g., BTUs, kWh), year-to-date energy and cost savings, and greenhouse gas emissions, among others.
Compiling data metrics to evaluate system performance over time.


Net Floor Area
The gross floor area of a building in square feet, excluding the area of walls and partitions, the circulation area (i.e., where people walk), and the area that houses mechanical equipment.


Operational Savings
The money saved from operational activities that reduce energy use, such as adjusting equipment set points and operating schedules, turning off lights, and shutting down computers at night.
Organizational Structure (of Energy Data Management)
The flow of utility and asset data to various departments within an organization involved in processing the data. The organizational structure includes staff involved in energy management and accounts payable staff.


Performance Indicators
A set of quantifiable measures that an organization uses to gauge performance in terms of meeting strategic and operational goals.
Policy Framework
A set of guidelines on the course of action and procedures to implement for reaching an organization's short- and long-term goals.
Power Factor
Power factor measures the efficiency of electrical power use within a facility's electrical system; it is the ratio between real power (kW) and apparent power (kVA). Commercial customers may be charged a reactive power fee if a facility's power factor is below a certain percentage (e.g., 95%).


Quantitative Data
Numeric data that can be quantified and analyzed using statistical methods.


Rate Schedule/Design
The rates, charges, and provisions that designate how service is supplied to a class of customers.


Individuals or groups with an interest in an organization's actions, objectives, and policies. Stakeholders can include staff, program designers, implementers, energy vendors, special interest groups, and customers.
Standard Energy Efficiency Data (SEED)
An open-source database for organizing, querying, and sharing building energy data. SEED helps automate the process of formatting, matching, cleaning, and validating data to identify errors.
Streamlining Data Access
A process that creates shortcuts and automates steps in data transfer and processing.


Units of energy use, which include: cmh (cubic meters per hour), ccf (hundred cubic feet), kcf (thousand cubic feet), Mcf (million cubic feet), cfh (cubic feet per hour), kWh (thousand Watt-hours), MWh (million Watt-hours), kBtu (thousand Btu), kBtu/hr. (thousand Btu per hour), MBtu (million Btu), therms, lbs. (pounds), kLbs (thousand pounds), MLbs (million pounds), ton, ton hours, and kg (kilogram).
Usage Anomaly
Abnormalities or discrepancies in energy or water usage relative to previous usage.
Usage/Activity Type
Designation of a space or area within a building by activity type.
Utility Billing Data
Metered or unmetered utility data that represent electric, water, or gas consumption in a billing cycle. Utility billing data is also used to describe data customers receive from the energy suppliers and payment streams associated with customer accounts. Vendor account details include account numbers, meter numbers, and historical energy-consumption information.
Utility Company
Any commercial or governmental entity that provides energy commodities, domestic water, or sewer-distribution services to customers, either through tariff provisions (regulated) or through contract provisions with private entities (nonregulated).
Utility Billing Data
Metered or unmetered utility data that represent electric, water, or gas consumption in a billing cycle. Utility billing data is also used to describe billing data customers receive from the energy suppliers and payment streams associated with customer accounts. Vendor account details include account numbers, meter numbers, and historical energy-consumption information.
Utility Meter
A utilities device that measures consumption of electric power, gas, or water usage.